Allegory and Allusion:
What is an Allusion?
In literature, an allusion is a literary device used to make an implied reference to a person, event or another piece of writing. It is often assumed that there is a general knowledge shared by the reader and author, allowing for easy comprehension and understanding of the allusion made. By providing further meaning to a text, allusions can enhance one’s writing and may even provide an ironic comment through contrasting dissimilar aspects. Biblical and Greek mythological references tend to be most often used in Western literature due to the fact that they are well known amongst many civilisations. However, many Modernist writers prefer and purposely use complex and intricate allusions that only a few individuals may understand. Allusions can also provide bias perspectives of the reader and even a society.
What is an Allegory?
When interpreted, an allegory is a fictional narrative that provides a symbolic and hidden meaning. This form of writing is most apparent in prose and poetry with the purpose of teaching as well as conveying a moral. Allegory is commonly mistaken for symbolism due to the similarity of their functions within a story, however it is important that they are differentiated. Symbols are typically objects that stand for a particular meaning, while an allegory is the entire story, which includes characters and a plot that implies an abstract idea. Many authors prefer writing allegories because they provide multiple layers of interpretation, and also reflect the writers viewings and insight towards the world.
Examples of Allusion:
- In the short story by Ray Bradbury, A Sound of Thunder, an example of an allusion would be in the phrase “If Deutscher had gotten in, we’d have the worst kind of dictatorship. There’s an anti-everything man for you, a militarist, anti-Christ, antihuman, anti-intellectual.” The story was published in 1952, which was seven years after World War II had ended. When the author says Deutscher, he is referring to the Dictator Adolf Hitler, which would have been fresh in the memories of many people. This is an allusion because the author is referring to a specific person from history, attaching a more detailed description to his character.
- Another example of an allusion would be in Ray Bradbury’s short story, Evil Robot Monkey, when the author names his characters Vern and Delilah. This is an allusion because both of these names have a separate meaning which symbolize and add to the personalities of their character. Delilah is a biblical reference which symbolizes a trickster as in the story, she tricks Samson into revealing his strength (his hair), to which she later cuts off. The name Vern means “Alder Tree” which signifies protection and safety. These names were chosen purposely to imply a personality for each character.
Examples of Allegory:
- The short story, Evil Robot Monkey by Mary Robinette Kowal is a perfect example of an allegory because it has many different depths of interpretation. The names of the characters have a significance to the story, and it is also written to convey a moral to the audience. The introduction of the clay is the moment when the reader needs to put the many figurative puzzle pieces together to understand what is being exemplified. After realizing the history of the character’s names and interpreting the roles and messages from the teacher and her class, readers can make the connection that the clay symbolizes a coping mechanism and happiness for Sly. The entire story has a deeper and symbolic meaning in regards to humanity and whether individuals base their judgements off of appearances instead of getting to know an individual.
- The short story, The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson is also an example of an allegory because it has multiple layers to the story’s meaning. This story conveys abstract ideas about tradition, change and human instinct. The title itself also has an important meaning to the story because at first glance, many would interpret it as something positive, however after reading the story, it is associated with a negative meaning. The black box is also described as old and in need of replacement, yet due to the fact that it has been used for so long, it is a tradition and the people refuse to change it. This also applies to the ritual itself and the people’s conformity to tradition. The moral of the story in regards to following tradition blindly is expressed through the villagers unwillingness to change.